In the latest version of Oliver Twist, one of the most controversial characters in English literature is played by a Jewish actor.
It was all a world away from the jollity of The Pickwick Papers.
But it is what many have seen as the anti-Semitism running through Dickens' depiction of the menacing figure of Fagin that has made it most controversial.
The book, like all Dickens' work, has never been out of print - hardly surprising since it combines a gripping narrative with graphic characterisation, social conscience and heart-tugging sentimentality in measured proportions.
The plot of Oliver Twist has been adapted for the screen more than 20 times, the latest of which by Roman Polanski opens in Britain today.
But the character of Fagin has transcended the storyline to become, like only a handful of other literary figures, a character in his own right.
Members of the Jewish community were concerned from the outset.
In 1854 the Jewish Chronicle was lamenting as to why "Jews alone should be excluded from 'the sympathising heart' of this great author and powerful friend of the oppressed".
Oliver Twist, like so many of Dickens' novels, had been a campaigning book, targeted against the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 which threw huge numbers of the destitute poor into conditions of semi-imprisonment.
But the book repeatedly referred to Fagin - no less than 257 times in the first 38 chapters - as "the Jew" whereas the race and religion of other villain, Bill Sikes, goes unremarked.